We asked five mums with arthritis, from Arthur’s Social, what advice they would share with newly pregnant women. This is what they told us:
Overall, I couldn’t rave more about having a baby. I waited so long due to various factors (and my arthritis being a big one of those) but it’s been worth the wait!
Pre pregnancy, try and relax. I know it’s hard, but the stress really doesn’t help.
Get on a medicine you can stay on!
Trust your body; it’s amazing at dealing with arthritis and will amaze you even more through pregnancy!
After getting pregnant you will have an obstetrician and be classed as high-risk, but don’t worry about it. You would be surprised what falls into this category! I had the most textbook pregnancy ever, so it can happen. It’s mainly precautionary, and you get extra scans, so extra seeing baby!
Obstetricians deal with all high-risk cases, so don’t expect them to be experts on arthritis. They are experts on making sure you get through pregnancy in the best way possible.
Talk if you can to your rheumatologist when you find out you are pregnant. I did this just to check my meds etc. were still fine. Even though I had checked it all out before, things change. It’s also good that they have your pregnancy notes, in case there is any reason they want to see you.
Get a comfy pillow. There are loads out there that are the size of you, but they are vital to getting a decent sleep.
Painkillers, or lack of! Be prepared that you can’t take much. Rest when you can and use alternatives to help cope with pain, such as heat or ice.
Try to keep active but watch those swollen ankles in the last trimester; it’s tricky to strike a balance of getting rest in and keeping active.
Get comfy clothes. Sometimes it can be hard to get clothes on and off without a big baby bump! Leggings, stretchy tops and flip-flops are a must. If it’s colder I found Uggs the easiest to get on and off.
Your obstetrician may determine you should be taken in on your due date (and possibly induced). If it’s your first, be prepared that it can take a while. I went in on a Monday, but my little boy wasn’t born until the Friday!
Enjoy it, it’s the best experience and it’s a special time for you and your baby. If you can, write a diary to baby; it’s amazing how much you forget! From finding out, to telling people, the scans, the weird tummy rolls they do, to the birth. I love reading mine and remembering how I felt at different stages. Also, sites such as https://mommyhood101.com are absolute saviors to those of us who didn’t know where to look for the right baby equipment that worked for the baby as well as me. Being able to get the right gear that has been reviewed by actual moms, helps out so SO much! Saving us money and time all in one.
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If possible, get as much sleep as possible before the due date and ensure you’re well hydrated and have been eating well. I had a planned caesarean section which made this easier, but I definitely think it helped.
I also think that having RA prepared me for the early days of motherhood as we’re used to having disrupted sleep and just getting on with life!
Although having a baby is, without doubt, the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I do think having arthritis prepared me somewhat. For example, the newborn sleepless nights were tiring but, actually, nothing compared to the crushing fatigue I’ve experienced because of having RA.
I was so worried about how I’d cope, I over-prepared and so coped better than some other new parents I know, as I had most eventualities covered. I’ve become more laid-back about changing/taking extra medication to help me through as my main priority is being able to function for my daughter.
Also, stay as active as possible – I did weights, Pilates and swimming throughout my pregnancy and I think it helped my joints cope with the extra strain. And those full body pillows are THE DREAM. I’d still use one now if my husband would let me get away with it! Plus, you can have fun with it. I have a friend who uses an anime body pillow for their needs, and it works great for them.
Stay on your meds if you’re allowed and go to pregnancy aqua-natal or pregnancy yoga if you can.
Sleeping can be tough, but a full-body pillow helps loads to cushion your bump and your hips.
I’ve always found that exercising and keeping my weight in a healthy range helps control my arthritis and continued to do this while trying to get pregnant.
I suffered quite badly from nausea and sickness during the first three months of pregnancy. Speaking to my obstetrician/rheumatologist helped as they were able to alter my medications and offer me something for the sickness. Getting rest when I could also helped and I carried on exercising.
During the middle three months I continued to exercise and swam a lot, though I had to give up trying to do the butterfly around this point! I also tried to continue eating healthily.
For the last two months of pregnancy I suffered with hip pain. Mentioning this to my consultant and being referred to a physio helped. I found that wearing a special support belt helped and while I stayed active, I made sure I didn’t do too much to aggravate my hips. I was also lucky in that I could work from home so I could avoid driving, and then used annual leave to have a few weeks off before the birth.
For the labour, I made sure that the medical team knew about my arthritis and that I could find being in one position for a long time uncomfortable. I also found it useful to keep an open mind about pain relief and in the end I had an epidural, which definitely helped with the pain.
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